Why, Hello!

So, after the Yahoo Password Breach I decided to check in with my ole blogging pal Annie Em to see how she was doing. I haven’t checked in for over a year, so she’s not doing too much. But, despite that, she received over 100 emails, tons of comments (some that are not even spam) and new followers!  It seems she has also had her identify hijacked: someone using Annie Em’s email is posting comments on education blogs.


I probably should just delete Annie Em, but I have such a fondness for her (no, not enough to return, yet). And others do, too: some of my most favorite posts are visited almost daily (you can see them below, including the one in which I diss Twitter–so purely ironic since I am such an active presence there as my real self these days).

Since so many of my favorite bloggers have switched to FB or Twitter, or, gasp!, have started blogging as themselves, I’m not so inclined to bring Annie Em back to life. Besides, just writing this quick piece reminds me how much time/energy/ogida/self I invested into some of these posts (only some, admittedly; others were pure raw and unedited outpourings).

But, truly, thanks for visiting. Visit my blogroll: many of those bloggers no longer blog either, but their oldies are fabulous goodies!

That Damned   “Maiden” Name Thing
Who Knew?
A Real   [Community] College Professor
In Which   Annie Makes Mom Cry
On Teaching   an Online Introduction to Fiction Class: Where are the Funny Short Stories?
Dear Annie   Em
Light and   Uplifting Fiction Recommendations Needed (Sigh)
Introduction   to Women Writers
Running   Skirts?
Summer Fun   for Educators

“Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner”

  I interrupt this Hiatus with this brief bloggy update, aka Random, Amusingly [well, to me] Related Bullets of….. Summer:

1. Yes, it’s finally summer, after the coldest, wettest spring in Pacific Northwest history (or 117 years).

2. A good friend of mine, who retired last year, is rereading Middlemarch. Sudden recognition that I do not have time to reread Middlemarch, despite having the next 2.5 months “off” from teaching.

3. Related to #2 above, finally visited my physician for both my annual and to see if she could figure out why my foot has been swollen for 2 months (two xrays and visits to “specialists” led to nothing). Three results of interest: one, I am not in the midst of menopause despite a variety of symptoms, highlighting the fact that I have many years to go before I can reread Middlemarch; and two, a bone scan reveals I have a stress fracture of one of those metatarsal bones. And three: I am vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D?  Oh, yes, lack of sun. Got it. See #1 above. Soon to be cured: see #4 below.

So the walking and spurts of running I’ve been doing over the last few weeks, with the encouragement of those doctors who found nothing wrong with me, have not been exactly helpful to the healing process.

4. Related to #3 above, I started taking Deep Water Running classes at the gym last week.  I’ve only tried a few classes yet have discovered that with the exception of another 40 something professional, athletic woman with a foot injury, most of the participants have plenty of time for rereading Middlemarch.   And while I push myself to get my heart rate up (sometimes it works), for the most part, I’m still in the stiffling giggles stage: Despite the name, the classes are basically aerobics in the water, but everyone is wearing hats and sunglasses instead of leg warmers and leotards.  I just can’t help thinking of those scenes in Dirty Dancing (remember, 1986ish?) at Kellerman’s in the Catskills where the women do aerobics by the pool.

And interestingly, the instructors always play music from Dirty Dancing.  Which just makes me laugh more.

On Hiatus

Clearly, not a lot blogging going on here these days for various, uninteresting reasons, so uninteresting, and sad, that I do not wish to blog about them.

Please feel free to visit those on my blogroll who continue to blog regularly.

Community College Instructors, Hollywood Style

There’s a new movie coming out (with the very uninspiring title, Larry Crowne) that features a community college speech instructor who clearly doesn’t want to teach, who pours vodka into her yogurt shake, and who falls for a student.

Oy vey. Alcoholism. Anti-intellectualism. Sexual Harrassment. Covers it all.

See for yourself:

Happy St. Urho’s Day

St. Urho welcomes you!

For those not in the know, St. Urho is the Finnish equivalent of that Irish saint: both are credited with chasing unwanted creatures out of their respective countries.

And both require the wearing of the green (though different shades, and with the addition of purple for St. Urho’s Day).

And finally, both saints require the consumption of alcohol as part of the celebration. You know those saints.  Tonight, we should all be  toasting Urho with a Grasshopper, an odd mix of creme de menthe, creme de caocao and cream. Other recipes have vodka or brandy in them.

With a name like Annie, I have Celtic bloodlines running through half of me, but no Finnish. I’m assuming the Finns don’t mind if I celebrate ole St. Urho though: St. Urho’s Day was supposedly invented by a Finnish American who wanted to have two days in a row that encouraged heavy drinking.

Besides, St. Urho’s/St. Paddy’s Days always fall during finals week, a week when even that overly sweet-sounding Grasshopper sounds divine. So, let me be the first to wish you Kippis! which is Finnish for Sláinte!

Crafting Academic Cover Letters: A Reminder

Creative Commons


I know I’ve written about this before, but just a quick reminder for those on the market for the late arriving community college job openings:

  • Please re-read the job description and make sure you meet the minimum qualifications: you WILL be weeded out if you do not, and since HR is overwhelmed, faculty designees, such as myself, are doing the weeding, and it makes me quite grumpy to find several folks a day who think they alone are qualified despite not meeting the minimum qualifications, though I do sometimes enjoy the verbal gymnastics that some candidates go through to try to make themselves appear to meet the minimum qualifications. My advice: if you wish to argue for meeting a qualification that you truly do not have, at least concede in the value of that qualification rather than dismiss it as irrelevant.
  • Please tailor your letter to the position:An eight page cover letter that includes a detailed overview of your current research, and a  list of graduate students you have worked with, by name, with their research project titles?   For a position teaching first and second year students? No. A cover letter that is only one paragraph long is too short; one that is over 3 pages is probably too long (and there is debate about 3). A letter that does not even mention the name of our college, or the position you are applying for, is just not going to make it clear to us that you truly want THIS position.
  • And yes, I know the software requiring you to upload documents is cumbersome, but you may want to double check before you hit submit: one candidate submitted hir cover letter 4 times (instead of including hir CV, for example).
  • You may want to update your reference letters, fyi: one candidate submitted letters that were all addressing a four-year old job opening at an entirely different type of institution. 
  • Yes, this one is a true oddity, so I mention it only for kicks and giggles: a cover letter written in the third person is very funny, and truly bizarro.  I’m curious: what professional fields require or encourage cover letters written in the third person?

Dear Search Committee,

Candidate Archie Simpson is simply perfect for your college. He has years of experience, and an admirable education to boot!  Let me tell you more about Dr. Simpson in as much detail as possible, and, while you read this fascinating description of Dr. Simpson, imagine you are hearing a big, booming radio personality voice reading it aloud to you. Believe me: you WILL hire Dr. Simpson after reading this letter!

It made me laugh at least!

The Gym Guy

I know: you’re picturing a guy who’s about 6 foot tall, dark wavy hair, high cheekbones or maybe dimples. He’s trying to hide his ass in those baggy basketball shorts, but they only set it off nicely.  Sculptured arms and abs. Long legs. You might be picturing this guy. Or this guy.  The Gym needs such guys if only to provide the necessary eye candy while I run, tediously, on the treadmill for 60 or 90 minutes, trying to get the miles in each week. The ice and snow (more coming tonight) outside prevent me from my usual river trail running, so I greatly, greatly appreciate these men.

But, that’s not the Gym Guy I’m referring to. I’m referring to THIS guy.

No, not really Archie Bunker, but someone very much like him.  He’s probably 70-something; an ex-baseball player (really, he was:  he’s told me about his glory years many, many times); retired from some sort of business that allows him to travel to Europe annually, and to Palm Beach each winter for a few weeks.  Let’s call him Bob.

Well, Bob knows I’m an English professor (ah, small town life), so he loves to ask me grammar and word use questions. Today, as I was nearing mile 7.5 on that damned treadmill, sweating despite the ceiling fans, he motions for me to take out my ear buds so he can ask me a question.

I usually try to snag a treadmill where the neighboring treadmills are already taken to avoid just this scenerio. Obviously, it doesn’t always work.

Today’s question: Bob’s friend’s answering machine (yes, answering machine–clearly this crew isn’t into the cell phone age yet) has the following message, and Bob wants to tell him it’s  incorrect usage:  “I can’t answer your call right now. Could you please leave a message after the beep.”  Bob says that the word “could” implies that the caller is being asked whether or not they have the ability to leave a message.  Bob wanted me to confirm that the friend should delete the word “could”.

Of course, wanting to get back to my boring treadmill and get to mile 9 already, I confirmed his opinion (as he knew I would) and quickly replaced my earbuds and raised the volume on my ipod to avoid further discussion.

But people: this happens REGULARLY and it’s quite annoying.  Now, to give Bob credit, he waited till I had run nearly 7.5 miles before finally begging me to hear his question (though he had been trying to make eye contact for at least a few miles).  Really, there’s nothing I can do short of changing the time I go to the gym, something I can’t do.

Sigh. If only this guy would interrupt me on the treadmill. My luck, he’d ask me a grammar question.

Happy Birthday, E.L.!

It’s the birthday of author E.L. Konigsburg, author of the 1968 award winning classics, novels that greatly influenced me as a reader, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler and Jennifer, Hecate, McBeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth.

From the Mixed Up Files did to the Metropolitan Museum of Art what Night at the Museum did for the Museum of Natural History: it became the place to be. Siblings Claudia and Jamie run away from home and camp out inside the museum. And no, the statues don’t start walking and talking, but the art becomes alive as seen through Claudia’s eyes and thus mine (we were the same age).

I lived only 50 miles from Manhattan, but no one I knew actually visited the “City” regularly, and no one I knew had actually been to the Met.  That’s right: I might as well have been living thousands of miles from New York City.

But the ex-nun who taught 4th grade at the local Catholic school turned public school by the time I was there, and who had introduced the book to us, made sure we had the chance to see the film version that was playing only (for some reason I don’t know) at Radio City Music Hall.  She planned a field trip to the Museum and to see the film.

A memorable day.

Celebrate E.L. Konigsburg’s birthday (she is still writing!) by sharing this book with a 10 year old girl or boy.  And then take them to the Met for a special Mixed Up Files tour. Make his or her day.

Women, Wikipedia and Flat Tires

A recent New York Times article reports that only 15% of contributors to Wikipedia are women.  As a result, entries on “The Sopranos” or “The Simpsons” are in-depth analyses, while those on “friendship bracelets” and “Sex and the City” are a meagre few paragraphs.

Where’s Camille Paglia when you need her? She writes several possibly ground-breaking essays on Madonna in the 1980s and she is still vilified for her dilettantism (among other flaws, I know).  And now there is the call for more women writers beafing up those important entries on Jimmy Choo shoes and the  Tantric sex episode. The goal is to have 25% of Wikipedia entries written by women by 2015. 

Despite my wee sarcasm, I recognize the need for at least some alarm that women are not participating in one of the most widely read publications on the Internet. Why aren’t we? Do we prefer to give away our writing talents in other forums, such as blogs?  Is the gender gap the same for those other encyclopedias that actually pay a nominal, quite nominal, stipend, and praise us with an actual byline? 

I’m almost motivated to develop/originate a few of those Wikipedia entries myself.  I checked out Louisa May Alcott’s entry, and while it is filled with good links, references, footnotes, etc., it’s rather brief for a woman who has had three  biographies written about her in the last few years. (Her contemporary, Mark Twain, has an entry that is more than double the length.)  If, as the New York Times article suggests, this is true of many of the entries on women, topics of interest to most women, women’s issues generally, then it’s a notable, if also somewhat amusing, problem.

Not unlike the problem a young colleague had last night. She’s a brilliant psychology professor, in her early 30s, athletic, outgoing, and independent. But when she got a flat tire last night, who did she call?  Another colleague/friend, who threw a coat on over her pjs and tried to figure out how to change a tire (undoubtedly Googling instructions), but then gave up in frustration (and, admittedly, lack of a flashlight).

And who did she call? My husband, who, infused with male pride that came upon him despite himself, immediately got off the couch at 8pm, wine glass still half filled, whipped on his shoes, grabbed a flashlight, with extra batteries, and rushed to the young damsels’ aid.  Thirty minutes later, he was back on the couch, and the young psychologist texted on Facebook the following confession: “Nothing like a flat tire to take away all that sense of female independence.”

This is a woman who teaches both the Violence and Aggression class and the course on Positive Psychology, so she has a wonderful sense of irony.

FYI: I stayed home, finished my wine, and read blogs on the Internet while hubby was changing my colleague’s tire. You see, I would have called AAA, a service I can now easily afford, which also affords me that sense of female independence.

I rejoined hubby on the sofa when he returned and we both noted the odd connection between the Wikipedia stats and the Feminist Psychologist’s Flat Tire Plight. A woman needs to revise the How to Change a Flat Tire entry, stat!

Added 2/7/11: WikiProject Women’s History is one response to the gender imbalance at Wikipedia! Read all about it at Cliotropic’s place.

Temporary Lack of Inner Resources

I went to high school right at that pivotal moment when those who argued to require students to memorize poems lost that argument. However, lucky for me, some of those teachers persisted.

I remember one of the poems I memorized.  It still resonates with me:

“Dream Song 14” by John Berryman

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) “Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no

Inner Resources.” I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as Achilles,

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into the mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.

Clio’s recent posting about “living with these three goblins of dread, demoralization, and futility”  reminded me of the poem.  But while Clio describes classic burn out syndrome, I’m more bored. I’m heavy bored.

And I’ve tried to fight it.

Professionally: I’ve revamped my composition courses with new assignments and new approaches to evaluating student writing. I’ve volunteered to serve on not one, but TWO newly formed, potentially powerful, task forces. I’m trying to focus on a writing project (and I have so many fabulous ideas).  I’m spending time planning and daydreaming about one of my favorite literature courses that I will be teaching spring quarter.

Personally: I’ve signed up for another half marathon and will once again join the weekly “training” group with what is usually a great group of women.  I’ve added new novels to my Kindle, ones that I’m excited about reading.  I make sure I’m staying social, and not crawling under the covers with chocolates and Mad Men as Clio describes (though frankly, that sounds utterly wonderful).

Seasonal Affective Disorder? Perhaps. But the weather is oddly spring-like these days.

Our college will soon have several administrative-type positions open, and I am being actively courted by a variety of people to apply. I mean actively: phone calls, emails, asides in the hallway, chats over wine during happy hour, invitations for more chats during happy hour.  It is, naturally, quite flattering, and I’m finding myself somewhat intrigued.

And after spending the last 2 days grading papers for 8 hours a day, I find myself very, very interested.

But in my current state of utter boredom, my obvious absence of inner resources, do I have what it takes to even make it through the application process?  Would a new position really save me from my boredom? Or, as Berryman’s mother says, do I just need to go find some damned inner resources?